Our dirt bikes bring all the boys to the yard. Damn right, they're better than yours.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Serve music, not bloody lawsuits!

Never thought I’d say it, but fuck the Red Cross.

From Boingboing.net: “The Canadian Red Cross has vowed to devote its resources to pursuing any and every use of the red-cross symbol, even to the point of threatening companies that make first-aid kits.”

Basically, the Red Cross is using money donated to them to sue anyone and everyone using their emblem: the red plus sign. This means video game manufacturers that put the symbol in games to indicate health packs, and even companies that manufacture first-aid kits. As Boingboing points out, not only is the emblem used on first-aid kits to make them more identifiable to those who need them, the symbol itself is already protected under the Geneva Convention, so there’s not good reason for them to be doing this.

Their spokesman, former Liberal MP David “Bag of Dicks” Pratt, has said, “…there's no emblem abuse that's too small to report, because you have to try to get them all… .” To help in this truly noble humanitarian effort, there are even forms on the Red Cross website one can fill out to report misuse of the emblem. So don’t even think about doing any math in red pen that involves addition because you might find yourself in violation of a trademark.

Like most people, I’d guess, I’ve donated to the Red Cross before, so it’s a burn that they’re using donated money to needlessly sue people. Perhaps with disasters like 9/11 and Katrina they’ve been given so much cashola that they can’t think of anything better to do with it. I won’t be donating to them again.

In general, the North American culture of litigation is a real drag. As another Boingboing post notes, an Australian woman vacationing in Texas was charged with assault after tapping another woman on the shoulder and asking her to be quiet during, specifically to stop talking on her cell phone – DURING A FUCKING MOVIE! The phone woman woman freaked out, swore a blue streak and stormed out, then called the police to arrest the Australian woman for assault, which the cops reluctantly had to do when Talky McAsshead refused to back down.

I really hope theatres implement the cell phone-jamming technology they’ve been talking about getting, seeing are there aren’t isn’t any retard-jamming tech out there. Twice I’ve been in theatres where dumb fucks have answered their phones and had a conversation. The last time was in Toronto, and the guy who answered was sitting less than five meters from the lobby exit, where he could’ve easily gone to chat. The time before that, at a matinee in Edmonton, was even worse. An old lady (yes, a not-so-sweet little old lady) took a call and then talked loudly for several minutes, at one point passing the phone to her friend. We didn’t say anything because it was so over-the-top rude we wanted to see how long it would go on for.


Luckily not everyone sucks, though, and in the spirit of not making this a post only complaining about idiots, here’s something that’s actually quite awesome: Paste magazine. If you’re not familiar, Paste is pretty young mag that just put out its 20th issue. It focuses mostly on music and movies, but also includes video game and book reviews (“Signs of life in music, film & culture” says their tagline). I’ve been picking it up more frequently in the past year, and I think it might just be time to get a subscription. Here’s why.

For starters, I love the covers. The design is nice, but I love the actual plastic-y, textured stock it’s printed on. It reminds me of one of the old table clothes my mom used that had a plastic upside and a fuzzy back, and when I’d run my fingernails over it, it sounded like a DJ scratching a record at a really high pitch – extremely satisfying to do.

The layout of the mag is also really sweet – rich with colourful earth tones and some fantastic font treatments. But more than that, I dig their focus. They cover “cool” shit that’s also mature. This month’s cover story is an interview with Philip Seymour Hoffman; other covers have included Fiona Apple, Wes Anderson, Death Cab for Cutie, Wilco, etc. They cover a lot of bands you might find on a hipster-targeted site like Pitchfork Media, but they also delve into a lot more country/folk/roots stuff. They cover hip-hop, as well, but only the more intelligent stuff – this issue has a review of the new Lady Sovereign and Danger Doom albums (plus they did an issue with ?uestlove on the cover). And unlike Pitchfork, Paste doesn’t become hyper self-aware or unreadably obtuse with its reviews.

As for the writing, although I’ve read some features that weren’t so hot, for the most part it’s solid, and sometimes it’s gold. Case in point, this issue has a “tiny essay” by Williams Bowers on the classic educational show The Electric Company, to coincide with it appearing on DVD for the first time. He describes its insanity with phrases like, “In a skit more sensitive to synonyms than most collegiate emails, a pair of lonely clowns sharing a bicycle drive each other crazy as their utterances fail to approximate the words they need.” Nice. Weaving memories of the show from childhood through the piece, he concludes that, “…we’re probably still a generation away from a T-shirt emblazoned with, ‘If you can read this, thank a television.’”

The real hook when it comes to Paste, though, is the free CD and DVD that accompanies almost every issue. The CDs always have 20+ tracks of music from new and upcoming albums covered in the mag, and the DVD has more music, music videos, short films, trailers, previews, etc. This particular issue’s CD has a track off the new Flaming Lips disc, one from the upcoming Neko Case album, a cut from Danger Doom, and a Sufjan Stevens song from a compilation, among other artists you probably haven’t heard of. Paste even includes a cover for the disc, and it’s on a separate page that also has subscription forms, so not only is it cardboard, you can cut it out without ruining the magazine. Fucking brilliant.

But, as every infomercial is so fond of stating, that isn’t all. Instead of a DVD for this issue, they’ve got a card that’s good for 50 free downloads from emusic.com. The songs are picked by Paste and you need to register for a free trial account with a credit card, but it’s free. More importantly, there are no restrictions as far as loading them onto any media device or hard drive, and they’re quality tunes. Old and new songs mingle from artists like Iron and Wine, New Pornographers, Bloc Party, Neutral Milk Hotel, Pixies, Yo La Tengo, My Morning Jacket, TV on the Radio, Neko Case (again), M.I.A. and Mates of State. Even if you buy the mag for the music alone, between the free disc and the free downloads you’re getting around four hours of music for $10 CND.

So, really, why the Paste boosterism? Well, I can divide my friends into two categories: those “in the know about music” and those who don’t get exposed to much outside of the mainstream. Those in the latter category don’t necessarily like “bad” music, or not care about “good” music, it’s just that a lot of them don’t know where to look or they get busy with life stuff like kids and jobs. Remember when you made a mix CD for friend, and he or she really liked it, and then you got asked how you found out about all those weird bands? I see Paste as doing that job. And it’s a job that needs to get done because there’s too much shitty media out there (like Much Music) dedicated to tricking consumers into buying garbage. Too much worthy music not getting heard by those who’d like it.

Anyway, Paste seems to be doing things right. If you wanna try it out for $10, this is probably a good issue to sample (it’s pretty easy to find at Crapters). I think I’ll subscribe, as a subscription comes with 300 free downloads, and works out to $5 an issue.

Also, if you act now, I’ll, uh, throw in a free set of steak knives. But if you hurt yourself with ‘em good luck finding your no-name first aid kit.

(And in case you're wondering, the above image is of one of the guys in Psychocharger, from the band's website photo gallery.)